Meet Dean Shapiro, the Inspiring South African Musician Who Adopted an Entire Village

Meet Dean Shapiro, the Inspiring South African Musician Who Adopted an Entire Village

  • A Western Cape musician is a local hero of a small Eastern Cape village, Mdumbi, where he uplifts the local community
  • Dean Shapiro has made it his mission to bring much-needed tourism, skills and other industries to the small village
  • Shapiro said there have been major successes despite the ongoing problems in Mdumbi and he plans to move there permanently

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By Justin Steyn - Freelance journalist

It takes a village to raise a child but what happens when a man opens his heart and resources to assist a secluded rural community in the Transkei area of South Africa?

Meet Dean Shapiro, a Western Cape-based musician who has taken the onus on himself to better the lives of the Mdumbi village community since 2015.

inspirational, community upliftment, eastern cape.
Dean Shapiro is on a mission to uplift and create opportunities for the people of Mdumbi, a small village in the Eastern Cape. Image: Supplied
Source: UGC
“While backpacking through Thailand in my early 20s, I often stayed in beautiful areas away from the tourist bustle in authentic inspiring accommodation owned and run by local families who welcomed me in like it was my second home.

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"I got an intimate experience of the local culture through these stays. Later in my life, I travelled through the Transkei and fell in love with the people, nature and culture.
"But I noticed there were not many locally-owned initiatives and this led me on my path to try and empower people in the village by offering assistance in building their village and improving the economic opportunities there,” he explained.

Huge tourism potential and opportunities for the community to make income

Shapiro said he saw massive prospects related to tourism where the community could develop their own income. The muso added that he plans to do much more than develop the town’s tourism sector and also wants to educate the locals on growing their own food as well as creating arts and crafts that they can sell.

"I am currently working on a business model where I am partnering with local families to build authentic inspiring accommodation on their land using recycled shipping containers, which will provide a niche, modern, yet culturally integrated tourist experience."

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According to Shapiro, the locals do not realise the potential of their land and often sell it to outsiders who then build on it and reap the benefits with very little returned to the local community.

“No one is coming in to the community and informing them about the opportunities and benefits they have with their own land. There is no incentive that encourages the community to build on their own properties, so this is often given to the benefit of strangers, who give nothing back.”

Mdumbi goes from strength to strength despite challenges

Shapiro said that since he has started with his project in developing the community of the Mdumbi village, there have been major successes despite the ongoing problems.

“I helped organise a small music festival with an NGO called Transcape. Outside artists and the people from the community were given the opportunity to showcase their talents and this created local employment in addition to skills development. Everything from ticketing, food stalls, security and the stage building was done locally.”

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All the profits raised from the music festival were used for the community through various initiatives that the NGO runs, such as the skills development centre, the Early Child Development Centre and micro-financing initiatives.

inspirational, community upliftment, community drives
Vendors sell locally made goods during a new market created in Mdumbi. Image: Supplied
Source: UGC
“I personally have invested in a locally-run restaurant that cooks traditional Xhosa meals for the tourists and caters for the local community. I would play live music during these dinners to attract and entertain tourists in the area and the local community,” he said.

Shapiro is also involved in other outreach initiatives in the village, such as comforting kids during an inoculation drive where he set up a projector for them to watch movies at the local clinic. Some of these children had never seen a movie before.

The philanthropist said while he is based in Cape Town, he would like to move to the village and assist in helping the community grow. Shapiro plans to visit the village in early July to discuss more of the ongoing projects he has committed himself to.

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Entrepreneur plans on sharing R30 million lotto winnings with community

In other inspiring news, Briefly News reported that a 73-year-old man who won the R30m lotto jackpot said a good portion of his winnings will go towards helping his extended family as well as uplifting his community.

“I want to donate money to schools in the rural areas and in townships of Mpumalanga to afford the youth better education opportunities,” said the lucky winner.

The man bought the winning ticket at Builders Express in Midwater Centre Aerorand, in Mpumalanga. He spent a mere R80 on the ticket, becoming one of Mzansi's newest millionaires.

The 73-year-old, who's chosen to stay anonymous, says he’s always on the move and he was so busy that he had forgotten to check his Lotto ticket until just the other day.

“I'm over the moon. I want to enjoy my winnings with my family and close friends. My family and I have a lovely home and my wife recently purchased a new car. The winnings will go towards paying off all my debts and providing financial support to my extended family,” he said excitedly.

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